Everyone knows the groan that erupts from a class at the mention of a “group project.” We’ve also probably all dealt with the following types of people before, and we’ve probably all been more than one of them.
1. The Poor Communicator
Have you ever been through a whole semester and still not known a group member’s name? You’ve asked them several times: you just can’t understand their accent. This group member is often very intelligent, but terrible at expressing themselves. Maybe they have an accent, a speech impediment, a lisp, “stage-fright” or just generally bad public speaking skills. Sometimes it’s their writing skills that shame them instead. Poor grammar or verbose paragraphs can make this group member’s contributions an editor’s nightmare.
Solution: Curtail the project to this member’s strengths. Suggest they do background research, make the graphs, run data analysis, or write up the list of references. If they are difficult to understand because of an accent, have them explain the most difficult part. No one will ask your group questions out of fear that they just didn’t hear the answer.
2. The Procrastinator
At first, you were so excited to work with The Procrastinator. They seem competent, intelligent, and witty. It was obvious they would give you really quality work. Unfortunately for you, that quality work always seems to come minutes before the final deadline.
Solution: Make this person the editor or presenter. If they’re going to do their work at the last minute anyway, just have them do the work that has to be done at the last minute.
3. The Ghost Partner
The Ghost Partner doesn’t show up to class, lab, or group meetings. You have no way to actually get a hold of them. It really doesn’t matter anyway, because they didn’t volunteer to help with anything. The only issue is the pesky rule that every group member has to help with the report or presentation… which means you have to let them do something.
Solution: Keep everything written – preferably over email – so that you can keep track of it. You can try asking them about their absences. Give them the smallest part of the writing project and an earlier deadline than everyone else. You’ll likely want extra time to edit it. For a presentation, give them scripted cue cards so they’ll know what to say. Do your best to make them look good and to make your team look unified, but don’t hesitate to tell the professor the trouble they gave you.
4. The One Who Doesn’t Really Understand
This group member is helpful and reliable, but just doesn’t seem to understand what your project is all about. They’d happily do whatever you asked them to, but their work might not be up to your standards. It’s really hard to explain something over your head.
Solution: Ask them to proofread your work. By reading what you wrote, they might better understand the concepts and format. Invite this group member to work alongside you, so that you can explain things to them as work.
5. The Commander
If you’ve read this entire post, you’re probably The Commander yourself. The Commander is the overbearing personality type that simply must be the group leader. You can’t suggest a group leader do a task: they’ve already done it, planned to do it, or delegated it to someone else. They’ll voluntarily do most of the work on a project, only to then complain to their friends that they “had to do all of it.” Your classmates will probably assume this person was most of the brain power behind the project, even if that’s not the case.
Solution: Ask at the very beginning to do the part of the project you’d like to do and get it done early. Let The Commander do as much of the work as they’d like. Ask the instructor questions so they see that you’re contributing. If it’s a presentation, study before you present. If you can intelligently answer questions after the presentation, credit will be given where it is due.
Most groups have some of these troublesome members in addition to perfect group mates. If you’re lucky enough to have a really great group for a group project, tell them how much you appreciate them. Good luck with your group projects!
(Photo Credit: Student Science)